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Leah Howard, right, and Kira Ford dance as The Young Escape performs during the JFest Christian music festival in its new location at the Tennessee Riverpark on Saturday, May 18, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn. After outgrowing its Camp Jordan venue, the annual festival moved to the larger area along the Tennessee River.

Color the inaugural JFest at the Tennessee Riverpark a big success, says Ted Gocke of event sponsor J103.

"It went super. Incredible. We had 9,650, which is our biggest crowd ever. The Riverpark is the best venue."

As with almost all first-time events, there were "some bumps that we will need to iron out next year," but he said the park, thanks to help from Chattanooga State and the Hamilton County Parks & Recreation Department, was a hit.

One change next year, for example, will be moving the sponsor tents away from the river so fans can get closer to it.

The park has for years been talked about as a place for such large events. Riverbend, for example, has considered it in the past as a Plan B should downtown development force them to move, so there has been some interest in seeing how JFest did.

"I would say there will be a lot more events there," Gocke says. "It's a perfect place."

JFest will be there for at least the next four years (May 23 next year) per their contract with Chattanooga State and the county. Gocke says it might one day become a two-day festival, but the next goal would be to add more stages.

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Barry Courter

"We think there is room for four or five more."

There were some complaints on social media Saturday of the music wafting across the Tennessee River into the neighborhoods along the North Shore, but Gocke says he has only gotten one email, which stated that a warning ahead of time would have been appreciated.

"When we were at Camp Jordan, we went door-to-door with free wristbands letting people know that there was going to be a large crowd and music."

Gocke said given the park's location and the lack of housing or neighborhoods around it, they didn't think there would be an issue, "but we'll look at it again."

* I've walked through the new Miller Park several times during the day, but attended my first Nightfall of the year this past Friday. The setting sun created some stunning colors in the sky, but also reflecting off of the surrounding buildings.

There is still plenty of work to be done with the addition of lighting and sound equipment, for example, before the park realizes its full potential, but yowsa what a view it has created. Having the space for the kids to run around and the addition of the art and food and drink vendors is a nice upgrade to the already terrific concert series across the street at Miller Plaza.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

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Fans gather for Jfest at Camp Jordan Park on Saturday, May 20, 2017, in East Ridge, Tenn. The annual event is the Tennessee Valley's largest Christian music festival.
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